When I returned to work at The Springs almost 3 years ago, I found it in a state of utter chaos. Buckthorn crowded every trail and cloistered every view. The Indian Springs were hard to find amidst an impenetrable tangle of brush. The Sand Prairie was spiked with half burned, dead and dying, red and black oak and black locust trees. The Scuppernong River was choked with water cress and the Hillside and Hidden Springs were lonely places no longer visible or visited. The river valley was dominated by phragmites, cattails and brush, and aspen encroached from every side. Weeds like garlic mustard and spotted knapweed forced the native grasses and flowers to cower and hide.
Slowly but surely, the Super Friends♥ of the Scuppernong Springs are working diligently to bring order out of the chaos. Yesterday, Rich Csavoy and I finished burning the brush piles in the Buckthorn Alley; it looks like a war zone, and I can’t wait until it greens up (skunk cabbage is already emerging.) The south end of the trail, where Carl and Marty are harvesting black locust trees with chain saws and a skid steer loader, looks like a war zone too. The transition from chaos to order is a little like making sausage, and what, exactly, do I mean by “order”? Tom, one of the birders (he’s a snow bird himself) who keeps his peepers peeled, warned me a couple years ago, “now don’t go turning this place into a park!”
Do we equate “order” with a return to a natural state? That’s not possible; human hands have worked the land for thousands of years. For me, and, if I dare speak for my Super Friends♥, our goal at The Springs is to return the landscape, and its flora and fauna, to the pre-settlement condition that the first inhabitants of the land defined as “order”. I think they were on to something.
Getting rid of the buckthorn is an obvious first step to bringing order out of the chaos and I returned to the buckthorn alley again yesterday to put a torch to piles that Andy Buchta made. I can’t thank Andy enough for the work he did this past winter. He closely monitored when we cut, and when the next snow was forecast, and consistently worked in nasty conditions to pile the brush, thus setting the table for us to complete the cleanup effort.
Here is what we faced at the east end of the buckthorn alley.
Rich Csavoy arrived just as I finished documenting the “before” scene and he had his own “Order Out Of Chaos” story to tell. Rich, along with others from the Jerusalem Presbyterian and Rock Prairie Presbyterian churches joined HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) on a mission to help the people of Peking and Washington, Illinois, rebuild from the devastating tornadoes that ripped through their homes last November. Rich’s crew was assigned the task of “car siding” the interior of a cabin.
Rich is the tough looking dude second from the left below.
That’s Rich in the bibs front row center.
I knew it was going to be a good day with Rich at my side! We burned a lot of piles and made it all the way to end of the buckthorn alley.
While we were working Andy Buchta came by looking for the last couple spots that needed piling. I directed him to the area under a beautiful oak on the east side of the wetland by signpost #13 and he got after it.
Thanks again Andy!
This past Sunday, I ran into Super Friend♥ Jim Davee armed with tools and a replacement sign for the spur trail that leads to the Emerald Spring. I was thrilled to see his handiwork!
Thanks for bringing order to the chaos Jim!
At the south end of the trail I ran into Carl and Marty harvesting black locust trees for firewood. This is a win-win situation; they get great firewood and remove the eyesores that these dead hulks are. The land will heal quickly from the scars of the skid steer loader.
Finally, I made my way to the south point of the Scupernong Springs Nature Preserve property to take a look at the progress that DNR trial boss, Don Dane, has made with the forestry mower (see the end of this post to see the results of his first day mowing.)
What a day! As I headed back to my truck, I had a wonderful feeling thinking of the many people contributing to transform The Springs from chaos to order. Thank you all!
See you at The Springs!
p.s. I just got the notice for the Kettle Moraine Natural History Association’s Annual Friends meeting at 10:30am on Saturday, April 5, 2014 at the Kettle Moraine State Forest-Southern Unit Headquarters, located 3 miles west of Eagle on Hwy 59. This is a lot of fun, hope to see you there. Click image below to read the details.